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Duch Victims Want Stupa in Remembrance of the Dead

Victims of the Khmer Rouge say they should be granted more compensation than was handed over by the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday.

The court sentenced Khmer Rouge torture chief Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, to a further 19 years in prison, and it read the names of some victims as part of its judgement.

Now, a number of victims say a stupa should be erected to commemorate the more than 12,000 people who died within Tuol Sleng prison under Duch's supervision.

The tribunal is meant to include the needs of victims, as part of national reconciliation under a scheme called “collective compensation.” As part of the compensation, tribunal judges ordered the names of victims be listed on the tribunal website.

But Chum Sirath, a civil party complainant in the Duch trial, said few people will be able to see the website, and that a stupa erected in a public place would be better compensation.

Chum Sarith lost four members of his family, including a baby, at Tuol Sleng. He said the 35-year sentence, commuted to a remaining 19 years, sent the wrong message to the public. The murderer of a single person can receive a similar sentence, he said.

Chum Mey, who survived the torture center, said even perpetrators of crimes at Tuol Sleng lost family members, making a stupa an important part of reconciliation. “So when we all together commemorate a ceremony at a temple again and again, then we know each other and become mutual friends,” he said. “Then reconciliation will be done.”

Long Panhavuth, a tribunal monitor for the Cambodian Justice Initiative, said he agreed with the stupa proposal.

“That means we recall those who died, especially family members of the victims, who want to see the names of the deceased, because there might be a place to commemorate the souls of the victims,” he said.

The Duch verdict was a landmark for the UN-backed court, as it seeks to try those most responsible for the mass atrocities of the Khmer Rouge.

In a press briefing in Washington Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley applauded “the commitment of the national and international judges for their comprehensive and independent work to uphold an international standard of justice and due process in this case.”

The verdict provided relief for some victims. Van Nath, who also survived Tuol Sleng, told VOA Khmer he felt better after Monday's announcement.

The tribunal will now move forward with its second case, against senior leaders of the regime now in detention, including Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith.